Reporting from Oakland
So much for catching San Antonio. And pulling some serious momentum into the playoffs. And restoring trust in the concept of a "three-peat."
The Lakers suddenly look like the Lakers of January and February, and December too, an apathetic bunch seemingly content to lob up bad shots and run laps around the court until the playoffs begin.
They officially fumbled their chance to take the top record in the Western Conference, falling 41/2 games behind San Antonio, and they also slipped 21/2 games behind Chicago for the NBA's second-best record.
Lamar Odom called Tuesday's loss to Utah the Lakers' worst of the season. He might have spoken too soon.
The Lakers were ahead, 16-4, and then their fun ended. They were outscored by a numbing 70-39 until early in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers (55-23) are lucky their three-game losing streak somehow looks acceptable next to the Dallas Mavericks, losers of four in a row, or else they might be in trouble for second in the West.
Their body language sagged, their reserves are now a "major part" of their problems, according to Coach Phil Jackson.
Bryant spiked the ball in frustration after being trapped in the corner and forced to call a timeout in the final minutes. He walked to the bench, ever so slowly, and walked back to the court with the top of his jersey in his clenched teeth.
"We're doing it to ourselves," said Pau Gasol, who had 18 points. "We're choosing the hard way. So be it."
Bryant seemed fine after the game, even joking mildly with reporters about the Lakers' failure to catch the Spurs.
"I'm just happy you guys ain't going to be buggin us about that ... any more," said Bryant, who had 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting.
Jackson was searching for reasons for the storm after the calm of a 17-1 run that ended last Sunday.
"Maybe complacency," he said.
It was bad enough that the Lakers misfired from the free-throw line (16 of 27), but what didn't make sense was their inability to capitalize down low.
The Warriors (35-44) had six more offensive rebounds and 12 more second-chance points, an embarrassment for a Lakers team that prides itself on its tall front line.
Jackson couldn't remember the last time the Lakers were outrebounded by the Warriors. And he also doesn't plan on resting his starters over the next four games.
"No," he said. "They rested tonight."
Lamar Odom had almost as many turnovers (six) as points (eight). The Lakers had 17 turnovers as a team.
"We look a little heavy, a little sluggish, look a little fatigued," Bryant said.
Coaches often use double-speak when discussing home-court advantage, pumping up its importance if they have it and demeaning its significance if they don't have it.
The Lakers won't have it if they play San Antonio in the West finals.
"Did you guys get that book … where they did an analytical study with probabilities?" said Jackson, unable to remember the exact name of it. "The probabilities are you're going to get calls when you have the ball and your home court in the seventh game."
Not a good sign for the Lakers. Not a good week for them, period.